DAMMAM: People in Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province have had no shortage of things to do during the Sharqiah Season. From pop concerts featuring international artists to massive sporting events, there is something for everyone among the 83 different events planned.
However, it would be remiss not to celebrate the heritage and culture of the country itself. The Enter East Coast Festival, an open-air marketplace with plenty of activities for locals and tourists to enjoy.
The festival is being held along the Dammam Corniche, at the waterfront of King Abdullah Park, and access to the 10-day event is free.
It features stalls with craftsmen beavering away. At one, a potter is bent over a wheel as he makes vases, lanterns and small toys. At another, carpenters fashion chairs and tables out of planks of wood. A weaver hums as he plaits together palm fronds to form baskets and fans.
The vendors are mostly from Saudi Arabia, but there are other countries showcasing their work too.
Fishermen and sailors from Oman display pearls still in their shells, delicate replicas of traditional fishing boats, and stretches of fishing net. The stalls from Kuwait feature items from the past and vendors from Bahrain offer local sweets, handmade items and clothing.
There are Saudi dances and musical performances too. One stage, resembling a ship, features performers dressed as sailors singing traditional sea shanties. Another stage has drummers and a singer. A huge area in the middle of the space is allotted to dancers, flag-bearers, and even armed officers participating in a traditional Ardah, or Saudi dance.
Those looking to eat something can chow down on Saudi offerings including jareesh, margoog, or qursan. There are food trucks selling Western fare such as burgers and tacos.
The festival runs until March 30, when the Sharqiah Season ends.
The season is a collaborative effort between the Saudi Commission for Tourism and National Heritage, the General Entertainment Authority, the General Culture Authority and the General Sports Authority. It is the first of 11 scheduled festivals planned across the country for 2019.
Future seasons will focus on different areas of Saudi Arabia, with different entertainment options for each city, and different parts of the year, such as Ramadan, Eid Al-Fitr and Eid Al-Adha.